Photoshop Elements 6 The Missing Manual – Review

Review of Barbara Brundage’s Photoshop Elements 6 The Missing Manual

pse6missingmanual2.jpgBefore we get started on this Book Review let me make one thing plain:

I don’t do Manuals!!!

As soon as I start reading technical instructions my eyes start to glaze over and roll back in my head.

Which is why I was surprised that a book titled Photoshop Elements 6: The Missing Manual was so easy to read.

Now this isn’t a book which you necessarily need to read from cover to cover. Although you should at least read the comprehensive introduction section which gives a good overview of Photoshop Elements and explains how the book is set up so you can get the best value from it.

Oh, and by the way, I am doing this review from the perspective of a Digital Scrapbooker

Part 1 Introduction to Elements

This section covers such topics as

  • Finding you way around Elements
  • Importing, managing and saving your files
  • Rotating and resizing your photos

Experienced Photoshop Elements users will probably skim this section but I would recommend checking out the blue coloured sidebars which are scattered through out the book as they can highlight some of the differences between this PSE version and previous versions.

Also they’re very handy for power user tips that you may not have previously known about.

And of course, new Photoshop Elements Users will find a treasure trove of helpful information to get them started using the program

Part 2 – Essential Elements

The focus areas of this section are

  • Using the Quick Fix Tools
  • Making selections
  • Using Layers

Photoshop Elements 6 The Missing Manual takes you on a tour of the Quick Fix Toolbox and Control Panel, not only showing you how to use them but also what their pros, cons and limitations are. So you can make your own call as to whether you need to use the quick and easy tools or the ones which take more time but give you more control.

I found the Making Selections section really helpful and easy to understand. There are several ways to make selections in Photoshop Elements and sometimes it can be confusing which method to choose and why. I appreciated the clarity that Barbara has brought to this topic.

And of course understanding how to use Layers is the core of Photoshop Elements. A lot of the layer management instruction will be familiar stuff to those who have been Photoshop Elements Users for some time, but there are still some great golden nuggets in the Power Users’ Clinic sidebars scattered throughout the section.

Part 3 Retouching

Topics covered in this section include:

  • Basic image retouching
  • Elements for digital photographers
  • Retouching: fine tuning your images
  • Removing and adding colour
  • Photomerge: creating panoramas, group shots etc.

Photoshop Elements comes with a bucket load of tools to enhance, improve, optimise and alter your photos. For many of us, we only use a small handful of them; largely because we don’t know how to use the others to get the best results. Photoshop Elements 6 The Missing Manual takes you through these tools explaining what they do and how you can use them. Colour illustrations of before and after help you to appreciate the results and recognise where you might use these tools with your own photos.

I think we all tend to have a favourite way of doing a particular optimisation technique. But there are many ways to be ‘right’ with Photoshop Elements and learning some alternative techniques can really enhance your ability to lift your digital scrapbook layouts to the next level.

Part 4 Artistic Elements

So many funky things for digital scrapbookers in this section

  • Drawing with brushes, shapes and other tools
  • Filters, effects, layer styles and gradients
  • Type in Elements

This is the section which takes your digital scrapbooking to the next level. Understanding how to use these tools will let you create fabulous scrapbook layouts and add your ‘extra’ touches to the digital elements that you download from the Internet.

And using these tools you can create your own digital scrapbooking elements. Very cool.

Photoshop Elements 6 The Missing Manual is peppered with colour illustrations that help you to understand the instructions on how to use these tools and get the best out of them. I do appreciate this as I tend to be a visual person and good illustrations reinforce the message for me.

And once again, the section has plenty of extra golden nuggets of information in the sidebars throughout it.

Part 5 Sharing your images

This section looks at

  • Creating projects
  • Printing photos
  • Uploading to the Web
  • Online galleries, sideshows and Flipbooks

So basically the focus of this section is the different ways in which you can display and share your digital scrapbooking works of art.

There are a multitude of different ways in which you can save and display your digital scrapbooking layouts. For most of us we tend to just use the native PSD format so we can revisit and edit our layout, a JPG save-for-the-web format so we can upload to our blog or online galleries, and maybe a larger JPG file that we can email to friends or print out.

Instructions for how to do these things are included in Photoshop Elements 6 The Missing Manual, but also creating photo collages, photo books, slideshows and DVD labels.

Part 6 Additional Elements

This is the ‘Beyond the Basics’ section.

It looks at using graphics tablets with Photoshop Elements and adding layer styles, shapes and actions to Elements

Part 7 Appendixes

This section has some really handy ‘quick find’ indexes for the Photoshop Elements Organizer and Editor. A quick delve into the Appendix and you won’t need to flap around your menus, clicking on everything trying to find where the command you need is. Very useful.

To Sum Up

The Good

  • Easy to read style without ‘techie talk’
  • Very good colour illustrations throughout the book to make understanding easier.
  • Love the sidebar system which highlights special information for different levels of expertise.
  • Useful segmenting of information in the Sections so you can easily find the relevant info that you need quickly.
  • Definitely an improvement on software manuals, which usually either tell you nothing of value or too much stuff that you can’t understand.

The Bad

  • Not much in the ‘bad’ department. I tend not to review things that I think are no good.
  • Size of the book (about 2″ thick) may be a bit daunting to first time Photoshop Elements users. But no alternative if you want all the information.
  • I did feel that Part 6 Additional Elements was a little on the lightweight side though.

The Ugly

  • I have a major issue with the Photoshop Elements 6 charcoal coloured interface. As someone who has poor contrast vision I find it difficult to see. This of course translates into the screen shot photos in the book, which are from Photoshop Elements 6.

Can I see myself using this book many many times?


I’ve already got a forest of stick-it notes bristling out of its pages.

And if you’ve bought Photoshop Elements 6, tried to use the manual to help you understand the use of all its features, and given up in disgust, I recommend you check out Photoshop Elements 6: The Missing Manual.

It would be a pity to have all that power and not be able to tap into it.

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15 Responses to Photoshop Elements 6 The Missing Manual – Review

  1. PreSchool Mama February 14, 2008 at 2:52 am #

    I am as technically challenged as they come. I’ve never been able to get beyond uploading photos on my blog.
    This sounds like something really useful.

  2. karooch February 14, 2008 at 7:05 pm #

    It actually is a worthwhile addition if you have Photoshop Elements PS Mama, because it explains how to do things which you might not otherwise be able to work out for yourself.

  3. Kelly / Scrappydo February 14, 2008 at 7:50 pm #

    Hi Karen – good to see you are back on board again – it’s been a while since I popped over to you.
    Hubby got this book after purchasing PSE6 for us. He’s quite keen to get into the digi side of scrapping. I thought I was reasonably tech-savvy until I got lost doing the things I thought should be easy enough to do! Have read bits and pieces of this book, but need time to really get into it. I agree that its format is really good.

    Now……….some lessons on actually figuring out where to get teh good digiscrapping stuff from…. that is something we need to work out :lol:

  4. karooch February 14, 2008 at 9:18 pm #

    Hey Kelly, i haven’t gone anywhere. But it’s good to see you here again.
    Congratulations in getting your hubby interested in digi-scrapping.
    Now you can’t let him get ahead of you or he’ll end up telling you how to scrapbook.
    Check out the Tips and Techniques category on Scraps of Mind for some handy digi tips. And there’s a few free video tutorials too.

  5. JoLynn Braley February 15, 2008 at 11:05 am #

    Hi Karen,

    I’m a Photoshop user and hadn’t heard of Elements until now. I’ll be sure to recommend this book to anyone who uses it. Thanks very much! :)

  6. karooch February 15, 2008 at 9:26 pm #

    Thanks JoLynn
    Photoshop Elements is the little sister of Photoshop, although it is still packed with powerful functionality.
    It’s also a fraction of the price.

  7. Olga March 14, 2008 at 8:17 pm #

    It’s a great and very detail review of the book, and yes I have to agree that shots about things explained in this kind subjects are a must, so I guess that makes the book a great addition to the library of any scrapbooker using PSE. :)
    Thanks for the review, it’s fantastic and best wishes. :O)

  8. karooch March 14, 2008 at 10:11 pm #

    I’m finding it really useful, even though I’m using PSE 5. It’s not that hard to adapt it to my version. And of course I’ll be ready in case Adobe do something to improve that black interface or if I have a rush of blood to the head and give way to pressure and do the upgrade anyway.

  9. Sharon May 27, 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    Enjoyed reading this. Is there a similar book for PSP X2? Thank you.

  10. karooch May 28, 2008 at 8:09 am #

    I had a look on Amazon Sharon. And despite having a huge range of titles in The Missing Manual series, PSP X2 didn’t seem to be amongst them surprisingly. Sorry.

  11. Glenn January 16, 2009 at 1:09 am #

    The Ugly???
    When I view this book on the O’Reilly website, I can see the details in the figures but some of same figures in the book are useless. If the figure is a dialog box or a palette, one cannot not read the details and if the figure shows a before & an after view of a photo, the change is not seen. Has the publisher changed the paper for the latest printings of the book? Some of the figures are almost useless.


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